BWF World Championships 2019: PV Sindhu's blend of no-nonsense badminton, controlled aggression takes down Nozomi Okuhara

  • Despite Sindhu enduring a long list of defeats in big games, there was no reason to panic on Sunday, as Sindhu came up with the goods and won the match with elan

  • Sindhu conquered the world with a down-the-line smash to end the country’s wait for a gold medal since the inception of the World Championships in 1977

  • Sindhu has successfully changed the colour of her World Championship medal, even though it took her a couple of tries to get it done

If I were to tell you before the match that PV Sindhu would bulldoze Nozomi Okuhara in the final of World Championships, you'd laugh it off without a second thought. But when Sindhu took the court and left the former world champion panting at the other end after the early exchanges, even renowned commentator Gill Clark rubbed her eyes in disbelief. "I cannot believe what I am watching," she exclaimed.

No one saw this coming, especially when Sindhu had a tough time dealing with early exits in the first half of the 2019 season. However, despite having endured a long list of defeats in big games, there was no reason to panic on Sunday, as Sindhu peaked at the right time to decimate World No 4 Okuhara with the most lop-sided women's singles final scoreline of 21-7, 21-7 in the history of the tournament.

It is often been said that in sports, the scoreline doesn't necessarily explain the exact story of the match. That was not true in Sindhu's case. It told us the exact story of the match.

The title clash began with Okuhara drawing first blood, thanks to a 22-shot rally where Sindhu looked completely off-balance as her return hit the net. Even though the Indian had a flurry of dominating results en route the final, it might have felt like deja vu all over again. Long rallies between the two, erroneous decisions by Sindhu and the inevitable heartbreak that follows. The Japanese coaches heaved a sigh of relief after the first point. One saw Sindhu's error at the net as a sign of worry, a sign of another close encounter in the final of the grandest stage of all.

But Sindhu knows a thing or two about silencing her doubters. After the initial hiccup, the Hyderabad-born shuttler broke the impenetrable defence of Okuhara with controlled aggression to bag a run of six straight points at 9-2. Moments later, she collected seven of the next nine points to make a statement of intent. Okuhara was brought down to her knees by Sindhu's no-nonsense gameplay. For Okukara, it was clear that this was a point of no return.

 BWF World Championships 2019: PV Sindhus blend of no-nonsense badminton, controlled aggression takes down Nozomi Okuhara

Japan's Nozomi Okuhara failed to return the shuttle on multiple occasions. AFP

Sindhu would go on to clinch the first game 21-7 with an unplayable body-smash in just 16 minutes and that set the tone for the second game.

The game, however, was still not over yet for many. Over the years, Okuhara has fought her way back from the abyss to rattle her opponents. But what came next from her racquet on Sunday seemed fairly predictable for Sindhu, having crossed swords against the Japanese shuttler on 15 occasions.

Okuhara started the second stanza exactly how Sindhu started the first — by rushing at the net. After trailing 1-3, the pint-sized shuttler tried to take the pace out of the shuttle by prolonging rallies, but Sindhu knew this script by-heart. In response, the Indian ace bludgeoned the former champion with sublime forehand drives and on-court mastery, adding to the Japanese shuttler's misery. Sindhu went on to make Okuhara work hard — back and forth, side to side to the extent where the Japanese warrior was gasping for breath.

But things did not change even when Okuhara regrouped after a breather. Despite adding more pace to her strokeplay when the play resumed, she was further embarrassed. Sindhu trusted her shot-making skills and hit shots that were probably heading wide from Okuhara. A perfectly-orchestrated 28-shot rally by Sindhu showed how her speedy court-coverage complemented the aggressive intent. “Okuhara is hanging on to this match with dear life, Sindhu is playing just magnificently,” said the legendary Morten Frost on-air.

By the mid-game break of the second game, Sindhu had a seven-point lead at 11-4. Just a few minutes later the scoreline read 18-5. Sindhu's aggression got better and better by the minute, while Okuhara's frustration soared higher and higher. It was time for Sindhu to raise the roof, but instead, she brought the house down. She had aced the game plan, dictating the course of play, just like she did whilst pummelling Chen Yufei in straight games a day ago. Her shots split Okuhara down the middle. The conditions in Basel looked perfect too, for a fast-court player like Sindhu, tying her opponents at the backcourt to find enough room to hit winners.

Sindhu finally conquered the world with a down-the-line smash to end the country’s wait for a gold medal since the inception of the World Championships in 1977.

Just like the 2017 World Championships in Glasgow, Okuhara was on her knees again, trying to make sense of what just happened. PV Sindhu was hunched over, head in her hands. But this time, the result was in the Indian shuttler's favour, this time, Pullela Gopichand had a huge smile on his face and this time, it was a gold medal.

It wasn't as bruising as boxing or as tactical as chess or as energy-sapping as running a marathon, but it was a classic show of how Sindhu has developed her game positively with controlled aggression.

She’s been close to winning gold on so many occasions, but on Sunday night, it felt like she has had enough of that. After being tied up on the wrong end of the result in two consecutive finals, Sindhu finally broke the World Championship gold medal hoodoo, equalling Chinese star Zhang Ning’s record of five World Championship women’s singles medals, and one of each colour.

It is, by all means, an important victory for Indian badminton. When the World No 5 was ranked 13th in the Forbes list of richest sportswomen in the world, (total earnings of $5.5 million dollars), many expressed concerns about her inability to break into the top 3. Look away now, Sindhu has finally exorcised the ghost of a series of energy-sapping losses with vigour.

First-placed India's PV Sindhu poses on with the gold medal during the podium ceremony. AFP

First-placed India's PV Sindhu poses on with the gold medal during the podium ceremony. AFP

"I have no words to express, because I have been waiting for so long. Last time, it was silver, before that it was silver and finally I am a world champion so I am really really happy. I have been expecting this for a very long time. So I got it finally and I want to enjoy it, feel it," said Sindhu, after the historic win.

Sindhu was quick to thank her coaches Gopichand and South Korean Kim Ji Hyun for her emphatic victory in Basel. Notably, Kim, a gold medallist at the Hiroshima Asian Games, looked animated on the courtside, asking Sindhu to hit some exquisite deep winners on the opponent's corners. The South Korean has played a big role in adjusting the World No 5's gameplay in the last few months, and on Sunday, her demanding influence was evident out on the court. One of the reasons why Sindhu wanted to add a note of gratitude at the post-match presentation.

"A lot of credit to my coaches, Gopi Sir and Kim (Ji Hyun) and also to my parents, my support staff and sponsors who believed in me," she said before adding: "I dedicate this win to my mom, it's her birthday today. I thought I will gift her something and finally I gift her this gold medal. It is because of my parents that I am here today."

When it was time for the national anthem, Sindhu couldn't stop looking at the Indian flag at the St Jakobshalle Stadium that soared high above Asian badminton powerhouses Japan, China and Thailand. Sindhu has made this dream possible. "It was really special when the flag went up and national anthem was playing and I had goosebumps, I have no words to express because you play for your country and it is definitely a proud moment for me," she said.

After all the heartbreaks, it's time for Sindhu to rejoice. She has successfully changed the colour of her World Championship medal, even though it took her a couple of tries to get it done. After every fall, Sindhu tried again. She did not lose heart.

Moral of the story: try and try till you succeed as perseverance paves the way to success.

Updated Date: Aug 26, 2019 03:03:20 IST